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Tony Clark: ‘A system that restricts player pay based on revenues is a salary cap, period.’

Tony Clark

Port St. Lucie, Fl.: Tony Clark, executive director of the Major League Baseball Players Association answers questions about the Houston Astros’ sign stealing scandal at Clover Park in Port St. Lucie, Florida on February 19, 2020. Clark met with New York Mets players before their spring training workout. (Photo by Alejandra Villa Loarca/Newsday via Getty Images)

Newsday via Getty Images

The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal and Evan Drellich report that the Major League Baseball Players Association doesn’t view revenue-sharing -- expected to be proposed by the owners to the union tomorrow -- as a viable option to get a 2020 season underway. The split is expected to be 50/50.

MLBPA executive director Tony Clark said, “A system that restricts player pay based on revenues is a salary cap, period. This is not the first salary cap proposal our union has received. It probably won’t be the last.” He added, “That the league is trying to take advantage of a global health crisis to get what they’ve failed to achieve in the past — and to anonymously negotiate through the media for the last several days — suggests they know exactly how this will be received. None of this is beneficial to the process of finding a way for us to safely get back on the field and resume the 2020 season — which continues to be our sole focus.”

The league insists that revenue-sharing wouldn’t be an effective salary cap. An anonymous league official said, “We’re not trying to regulate payrolls, we’re not trying to set a precedent, none of the above.”

While the pandemic is uncharted waters for everybody involved with MLB, these negotiations cannot be viewed in a vacuum. Concessions made by the players now would weaken their leverage going forward, especially with the current collective bargaining agreement set to expire on December 1, 2021. As we have seen in negotiations between other unions and business owners, as well as with legislation that aimed to temporarily suspend certain civil liberties, “temporarily” very easily becomes “permanently.” The union is not only fighting for the present-day protections of its players, but for future protections and leverage as well.

The league, on behalf of the owners, will be aggressive in waging a P.R. battle that makes the players look lazy and selfish, allowing fans to pin any further delay to the 2020 season -- or the absence of the season entirely -- on them. Remember: the two sides came to an agreement on player pay back in March, which included the players agreeing to significant salary reductions. This is the owners trying to renege on that deal and come up with one that’s more favorable to their pockets, all while putting players and auxiliary personnel at risk.

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